Parents warned of online dangers as more holiday time spent on gadgets
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Child safety campaigners have highlighted dangers posed online after the internet was used as a gateway to commit almost 50 sex crimes against children in Suffolk over two years.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has issued advice to parents for the summer holidays – as young people spend more leisure time on tablets, smart phones and games consoles.
Figures revealed the number of ‘cyber flagged’ sex offences reported against children in Suffolk reached 37 in 2015/16 and nine in 2016/17.
Last year, Childline volunteers delivered more than 12,000 counselling sessions about online safety and abuse.
Katy Cole, NSPCC schools service coordinator for Suffolk, said a growing number of children had been targeted through apps and social media.
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“The internet is a fantastic place for children and young people to socialise, explore their interests and learn,” she added.
“But every parent should be aware of the risks.
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“Online sexual abuse can take the form of grooming, child sexual exploitation, being made to perform sex acts on webcam, meeting in person and viewing distressing sexually explicit content.
“Some children contacted Childline because they felt trapped and ashamed by their situation and were too frightened to talk to an adult. Some were being blackmailed, while others wrongly felt they were to blame because they have participated in their abuser’s actions.
“It is incredibly important that parents talk to their children about being safe online and spotting signs of inappropriate behaviour or content.”
The NSPCC and mobile network O2 created Net Aware to judge the safety of popular sites and give advice on age suitability, privacy settings and how to report online.
The partnership also urges parents to be ‘Share Aware’ and talk to children about what is suitable to share online.
Following the NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign, Suffolk MP and then-digital secretary, Matt Hancock announced new laws to regulate social networks and prevent grooming.
The charity wants the new secretary of state to ensure laws are sufficiently robust.
If you need help setting up parental controls, call the online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002.